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Other Types of Loss

How Can You Deal with Other Kinds of Loss After the Death of a Loved One?

Information & Resources

Types of Loss

The death of a loved one is unarguably life’s most stressful event and is capable of devastating those it leaves behind. 

When we lose someone close to our heart, it’s literally the same pain receptors in the brain as losing a limb.

The loss of a loved one can be broadly divided into primary and secondary loss.

This guide article will provide you with useful information to help you identify any secondary loss you may be experiencing as well as how to cope with secondary losses. 

The pain itself is too excruciating and feels so unbearable that gradually it gets associated with various other emotional experiences like confusion, guilt, envy, loneliness, depression, and ultimately anger.

This snowball effect stems from the fact that the death of a spouse not only creates a single hole in one’s life but also impacts many other areas of life, creating multiple losses apart from that primary loss.

Dealing with the death of a loved one can be overwhelming and can lead to other emotional barriers, stumbling blocks, and secondary losses.

This primary loss manifests itself in other types of losses known as secondary losses that can have a lasting impact on the griever’s physical and social abilities.

Secondary losses arise in our own unique emotional and physical response to the loss that has just been experienced. During the grieving process these hidden areas become highlighted. As the loss of the loved one is grieved, this will also allow for the opportunity for healing in those other hidden areas which might not have been considered. 

As well as ensuring adequate covers are made for those losses whilst learning to move forward with life without our loved ones.

Below is the table of contents so you can directly navigate to the question you have in your mind:

In this other types of loss guide you will find:

Types of Losses

What's the Connection Between Grief and Loss?

The death of a loved one can cause grief, which can be described as a crushing feeling. There is a sense of vulnerability and abandonment as well as a realization of life’s unpredictability. 

The intensity of grief makes it difficult to differentiate between loss and grieving at the beginning, and loss is often thought to be part of grieving. When the emotions subside, the sense of loss manifests itself as bereavement at a whole new level.

What Are the Types of Loss That Can Trigger Grief?

Grief can be defined as conflicting emotions caused by a sudden change in a familiar pattern of behaviour. Everyone has a different idea about what grief should feel or look like.

Typically, people view death as a significant loss, but many life events and changes produce feelings of loss and trigger grief. Like, loss of physical ability, divorce or changes in a relationship, changes in your health or health of a loved one, loss of something routine in your life such as a job.

People grieve for many different reasons and have their own unique way of grieving because individual grief is as unique as the person experiencing it , trivial things can serve as grief triggers.

In 1967, physicists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale that listed over 40 types of stressful losses that can trigger grief, illnesses, and other serious health issues.

Before getting into the list, we’d like to point out that not all the life events mentioned in the list can be regarded as losses that necessarily trigger grief.

Groupings of Losses

Grief is a reaction when you’ve lost something important to you. The loss could be the death of a loved one, losing a physical ability or cognitive ability, or financial loss.

The tyeps of Loss that trigger grief can occur under different circumstances and can be categorised in different ways.

Necessary Loss

This loss isn’t necessarily a loss and is replaced by something better, like leaving behind family and friends to pursue a new job.

Actual Loss

This loss is experienced when the person is no longer able to see, hear or touch the lost object or person e.g., spouse, relative, friend, pet, body part, or job.

Perceived Loss

This loss is only real to the person experiencing it and may seem obvious to others. E.g., when a child feels his parents love his siblings more than him. He may lose his self-worth.

Maturation Loss

Loses we anticipate and experience are part of the normal developmental process, e.g., children leaving for university, retirement, etc.

Situational Loss

It occurs when a person experiences unpredictable and traumatic life events leading towards other losses, e.g., Loss of body function or loss of a job.

Anticipatory Loss

It occurs when you know what you are going to lose and what your life will be like after that loss. e.g., a loved one diagnosed with a terminal disease

Loss can be triggered by 40 different life events

The losses caused by the 40 life events can be classified into six categories

Type of Loss Life Events

Necessary Loss

  • Marriage
  • Pregnancy
  • Marital reconciliation
  • Business readjustment
  • Major mortgage
  • Change in frequency of arguments
  • Change in residence
  • Change in schools,
  • Minor violation of law
  • Change to a different line of work
  • Outstanding personal achievement
  • Change in responsibilities at work
  • Change in eating habits
  • Vacation
  • Christmas

Actual Loss

  • Death of Spouse
  • Death of a sibling
  • Death of a parent
  • Death of a child
  • Death of a grand prarent
  • Death of grand children
  • Death of a close family member
  • Death of a close friend
  • Death of a pet

Perceived Loss

  • Sexual difficulties
  • Trouble with in-laws
  • Trouble with boss
  • Minor mortgage or loan
  • Loss of Trust
  • Gain a new family member
  • Loss of Approval
  • Loss of Safety

Maturation Loss

  • Child leaving home
  • Begin or end school
  • Change in living conditions
  • Spouse starts or stops work
  • Retirement
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Change in religious (e.g. church ) activities
  • Change in social activities
  • Revision of personal habits
  • Change in working hours or conditions
  • Change in number of family reunions
  • Change in recreation

Situational Loss

  • Change in a financial state
  • Divorce
  • Marital Separation
  • Imprisonment
  • Loss of Control of my body
  • Foreclosure of mortgage or loan

Anticipatory Loss

  • Change in health of family member

Primary Loss

What is Primary Loss?

Primary loss is when you experience the death of your loved one or any other major life-changing event in your life, and it’s followed by a series of mini-events that have a strong impact on your life.

Primary losses are apparent losses that are easy to recognise, such as losing a spouse, job, or anything you hold dear. 

One primary loss can escalate to multiple losses known as secondary losses that can affect various areas of an individual’s life.

Examples of Primary Loss
  • Death of Spouse
  • Death of a sibling
  • Death of a parent
  • Death of a child
  • Death of a grand prarent
  • Death of grand children
  • Death of a close family member
  • Death of a close friend
  • Death of a pet
  • Disappearance
  • Murder
  • Suicide
  • Miscarriage
  • Terror attack
  • War
  • Sudden death of a child
  • Physical loss
  • Cognitive loss
  • Loss of income
  • Relationship failure

Cummulative Loss

What is Cummulative Loss?

Cumulative grief occurs when an individual experiences numerous loss one after the other within a short time.

For example, losing multiple family members or loved ones at the same time or in close succession would result in cumulative grief.

Another example is loss of relational identity (no longer a husband, wife, parent, sibling, grandparent, etc) which could lead to loss of life purpose (no longer a parent, or caregiver etc) 

This type of grief can be extremely consuming because the person feels buried by the loss and doesn’t have the time to grieve one loss properly before experiencing the next.


Secondary Loss

What is Secondary Loss?

Secondary loss is felt after the primary loss has occurred and refers to all smaller losses you’ll experience as a result of the primary loss you’ve suffered. 

The grief from the second loss is the emotional response to the subsequent losses resulting from primary loss.

The death of a spouse may lead to multiple secondary losses like the loss of identity, loss of a home, decrease in income, change in friend circle, change of job, revamping of future plans, etc.

The secondary losses can be a divided into three categories:


  • Loss of relational identity,
  • Loss of ability to function,
  • Loss of health,
  • Loss of role as a caregiver / assuming new role as a caregiver,
  • Loss of life purpose,
  • Loss of dreams and goals,
  • Loss of memories,
  • Loss of faith,
  • Loss of motivation,
  • Loss of self-confidence and self-worth,
  • Loss of memories,
  • Loss at important milestones.


  • Loss of activities with the deceased,
  • Loss of support system,
  • Loss of family structure,
  • Loss of future dreams of growing old together,
  • Loss of emotional sustenance,
  • Loss of friends,
  • Loss of a sense of a shared life with another person,
  • Loss of physical and emotional intimacy,
  • Loss of friends,
  • Loss of relationships due to conflict of death,
  • Changes in the way you relate to friends,
  • Loss of community,
  • Distance from people connected to the person who died.


  • Income reduction,
  • Loss of sense of safety,
  • Loss of business,
  • Loss of a home,
  • Loss of companionship,
  • Loss of financial security.

Examples of Secondary Loss

The secondary losses can be a divide into three categories

What is the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Losses?

The table below will help you to be able to understand the difference between a primary loss and a secondary loss.

Primary Loss Secondary Loss
A primary loss is what you experience when someone important to you dies.
Secondary loss is an accumulation of all unexpected ways you suffer as a result of that death.
A primary loss incurred from the loss event itself.
A secondary loss is incurred from the reaction to the loss event.
The initial loss is often referred to as the primary loss.
The losses that follow primary loss are referred to as secondary losses.
Primary losses are easy to identify.
Primary losses are easy to identify. Secondary loss is hard to recognise and often regarded as “hidden loss”.
A primary loss appears all of sudden.
Secondary losses don’t appear until much later.
Example: Death of a spouse.
Example: The associated secondary losses are companionship, affection, responsibility, and comfort provided by the spouse.

What Are Some Ways to Identify Secondary Losses?

The secondary losses are often so incredibly personal and difficult to identify that they often go unrecognised by family, friends, community members and sometimes even by the person experiencing them.

Secondary losses constitute various types of losses at once and may be related to ambiguous or disenfranchised losses.

Secondary Loss as Disenfranchised Loss

Disenfranchised Loss experienced when the grieving person doesn’t get the much-needed validation or support from others. Others don’t recognise how significant that loss was to that person.

There is another side of disenfranchised loss you experience when your loved one has an illness that causes a decline in their physical abilities, causing them to be physically present but mentally absent.

Secondary Loss as Ambiguous Loss

An ambiguous loss refers to when the person has no idea about what has been lost or whether the loss occurred.

We hope that this post has given you a better understanding of the various secondary losses that can come with losing a loved one. Next week we will look at how to identify and cope with your secondary losses. 

Managing Secondary Losses

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